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COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids Ages 12 to 15: What You Need to Know

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Posted by David Fleece, MD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15. This expands the previous age range of 16 years and older, and means that all people age 12 and over are eligible for a COVID vaccine.

This is exciting news for many, but I understand that parents and guardians may have questions.

Why do 12- to 15-year olds need the COVID vaccine?

Although most children who get COVID-19 have a mild case, there is still a risk your child may develop severe illness. And even if your child has no symptoms, they can still spread the virus to other people such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family and friends.

Temple pediatricians and infectious disease specialists strongly agree that getting your child vaccinated is the best thing you can do to protect them.

Is the COVID vaccine safe for children between the ages of 12–15?

Yes. You can feel good knowing that clinical trials have studied the effects of the vaccine in thousands of children between the ages of 12–15 years, and found the vaccine to be safe and effective.

Can kids respond differently to the COVID vaccine than adults?

Children may have stronger immune responses than adults after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. That’s because many of their cells have not yet been exposed to certain viruses, bacteria or other substances. A strong immune response may lead to some mild side effects.

When you or your child are exposed to foreign substances like viruses or bacteria (called antigens), the immune system works to recognize them and fend them off. This process is called an immune response.

Vaccinations trigger your body’s immune response so that your body learns to recognize and fend off viruses and other threats in the future.

Do children get the same side effects as adults from the COVID vaccine?

Kids can get the same side effects as adults from the COVID-19 vaccine. The most common side effect is arm pain, redness and swelling in the area where the shot is given.

Kids may also have the following within a day or two of receiving the vaccine:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Achy or sore muscles
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Talk to your child’s pediatrician about how to manage side effects from the vaccine, and when to call with concerns. These side effects usually resolve on their own within 48 hours.

Will my child’s school require the COVID vaccine as part of the immunization schedule?

Each state decides on what immunizations will be required for school-aged children. Check with your child’s school or visit your state’s Department of Health website to learn more.

Should I vaccinate my child?

Yes! I encourage all families, including children 12 and up, to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

We know that getting vaccinated is the best defense against this potentially deadly virus, along with wearing masks, physical distancing and other behaviors. Let’s help our kids get back to being kids with school, sports and fun.

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David Fleece, MD

Dr. Fleece is a board-certified pediatrician at Temple Health and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. He is also Chief Medical Information Officer at Temple University Hospital. Dr. Fleece has a clinical interest in pediatric primary care and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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